Grow Up In Africa
'What is it like living in Africa?'
As I was typing this I realized that I interpret this question as asking me what it was like growing up in Africa. I have never known how to answer the question because growing up in Africa is kind of hard to describe.
You spend most of your life watching movies from the West and seeing all these similarities and differences. You wait for the opportunity where you can tell Westerners that you and your people are just like them and that the news and some of those well-meaning but stupid documentaries on Africa have nothing to do with your reality.
That is unless you are like me and you wait for the opportunity to tell more lies about your country and the sometimes continent, Africa.
This is my moment.
Living in Africa is probably the wildest thing you can ever do. There is no electricity, no water and sometimes no food in certain areas. (I haven't lied yet.)
Where I was born they have this tradition that as soon as someone is five years old, they move out of their homes and build their own hut. In my culture, the hut that you first build and stay in is known as a simba. Boys can stay in their parent's huts until they find someone they want to marry, then the parents move out because the boy inherits all their belongings.
When you are 10-year-olds in Kenya, you must kill a male lion. It doesn't matter what gender you are, you must kill a male lion. You spend your early years practicing on antelopes and gazelles. However, it is more than just practice, you have to hunt these animals in order to get their skin for your clothes. Since we have little to no money, the amount of lion, cheetah, or even leopard skins you have, are a sign of wealth.
If you kill a lion, you get to take a break from education for two years. However, it is not usually a break. You have to travel to other villagers across Africa and learn their way of life. Basically an educational field trip.
When you get back from the trip, you have to give up your animal skins and get your uniform for school. The school was built during the colonial era so they still use their rules and ideas.
Depending on where your village is, you might have a 30KM walk to and from school. If you father is a village elder or a chief, you might be lucky and have shoes, but most of the time we are barefoot.
In school we learn the basic things, you know English or French (depending on who colonized you), math, astronomy, witchcraft, night running, and if you are lucky enough to live near trees, tree jumping.
I know these don't really interest you so I'll get to the juicy part. What we do for fun.
Usually, we chill with Zebras and Elephants, since they are the most chill animals. In their own way, they get humans. If it is action we want, we watch the Lions try and catch their dinner, but that kind of got banned after Zambezi was eaten by a lion.
A couple of people have actually managed to figure out a way to run with the cheetahs and they are the coolest of the cool. Since I'm already breaking protocol and telling you the secrets of Africa, I might as well let you in on the secret. That's why Kenyan runners are so fast.
We wrestle a lot with gorillas. They are insanely strong and if you can beat one, you really are the king of the jungle.
Most of the time we just wait for night time because that's what when we can read our futures in the stars, and also make up stories.
Most of us are not expected to make it past 15. If you do, chances are high that you are going to be the next chief.
For university most of us stay in our respective African countries but we also travel to other places in the world to further our education.
It is always a shock to get to the other countries because they have buildings with stairs and you know us typical Africans are not used to stairs so we try to scale the walls of the buildings. It really is a crazy experience!
Don't even get me started on the cars, it is strange going from tree-swinging to riding in a car, or train. It's an experience I can't even begin to explain.
It is not easy to describe growing up in Africa because it is kind of like growing up in any other country in the world. You live in a house, you go to school, sometimes you ride in a car, sometimes you ride the bus or sometimes you walk. Sometimes your government uses the taxes you pay to build big houses for themselves and sometimes, very rarely, they do right by the people. Some roads are not paved but we still make it where we are going. It's not as crazy as most movies and people- myself included- would have you think it is.
I find it interesting that most people even Africans can give you a rough idea or sanitized idea of what it's like to go to school in Europe or in America but would not be able to say the same for someone growing up in a random country in Africa.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that if someone asked you what it's like growing up or living in your hometown, you would probably say normal. Growing up in Africa was and still is normal.